BWW Review: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater - 60 Years, Still Ascending at The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion

BWW Review: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater - 60 Years, Still Ascending at The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion

There is nothing negative I could possibly say about the performance I witnessed on April 4, 2019 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Such artistry is almost hard to describe. This company has an amazing history and is superb in both their interpretation and their amazing technique. Their 60-year history of excellence is a gift to our lives that must always Be. What more could you want?

Extreme gratitude given to Glorya Kaufman, and Glorya Kaufman Presents Dance at the Music Center. Ms. Kaufman is an Angel for the Arts in Los Angeles; especially for Dance.

Supple strength that fluidly morphs until it hits a line that is as outstretched and aesthetically perfect as could be, and those are the visual pictures they create with their bodies. It is a way of moving that combines all the elements of different opposites that we feel, react to and dream of, painting a visual picture, conveying expressive perceptions.

There was a pre-performance discussion given by Matthew Rushing, the Rehearsal Director and Guest Artist for Ailey that was interesting and fun for the anticipatory audience. After a short description of the emotions felt while dancing the beginning of one of the sections of their masterpiece "Revelations," we all stood up in front of our chairs and learned the movements from him, with the music! In the program, when "Revelations" was performed, it was fun seeing what we had learned in the lobby beforehand.

The program for opening night was a mixture of the company's traditional modern style and newer contemporary works. BWW Review: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater - 60 Years, Still Ascending at The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion

To begin, "Kairos," choreographed by Wayne McGregor was a bold, dynamic, fascinating piece that began with a blast of strobing lights and dancers, in mostly flesh-colored dancewear in front of a scrim that slowly became more visible as a giant piece of sheet music as the backdrop. With this jolting and exciting visual, accompanied by a Max Richter composition entitled "Vivaldi - The Four Seasons Recomposed," which aurally heightened the whole experience - it was a thrilling piece to watch! To soulful violins and subtle, specific lighting the dancers would suddenly switch to more modern movements, with first a beautiful BWW Review: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater - 60 Years, Still Ascending at The Dorothy Chandler Pavilionpas de deux and then in different groupings as they danced a combination. First as a round, beginning and ending at different points in the music, and then each dancer takes a section of the music and does their own solo combination, one at a time. The groupings are constantly changing, as is the tempo of the music. There are solos, trios, duets and a mens' section that highlights the strength yet pliability of the Ailey male dancers, who's superb technique shines throughout the evening. The mixture of ballet and modern woven through the piece gives it a uniqueness and freshness and gives the ten performers equal opportunity to express their individuality. The last section brought the sheet music scrim back in where the dancers soloed one-by-one in front and behind it to an allegro fiddling section, with quick footwork and BWW Review: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater - 60 Years, Still Ascending at The Dorothy Chandler Pavilioninterpretive off-balance poses, somehow (magic to me) then disappearing through the scrim as they finished their steps. A legato violin solo changed the pace once again as the dancers moved through different lifts, controlled and expressive, complimenting the pleasing melody. Ending with a brisk fugue-like violin section where groups of trios took turns dancing, becoming entwined with each other, spinning together, the music intensifying as the curtain comes down. The brilliant dancers: Jacqueline Green, Jamar Roberts, Michael Francis McBride, Solomon Dumas, Samantha Figgins, Jacquelin Harris, Chalvar Monteiro, Ghrai DeVore, Sarah Daley-Perdomo and Yannick Lebrun. Fantastic Scenic Design by Iris Khan, excellent Lighting by Lucy Carter, and perfect Costuming created by Mortiz Junge. BWW Review: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater - 60 Years, Still Ascending at The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion

The second piece, "The Call," is a new work Choreographed by the award-winning Ronald K. Brown, performed by five company members; Jacqueline Green, Danica Paulos, Fana Tesfagiorgis, Jamar Roberts and Solomon Dumas. Grandly leaping onto the stage, Danica Paulos set the tone for this multi-dimensional, exciting number set to music as diverse as J.S. Bach, Mary Lou Williams and the Asase Yaa Entertainment Group. Classical, Jazz & Blues and African Drums combined to give us a taste of everything, proving this company can dance any style and at any tempo. Beginning with some very lively Bach, with it's pizzicato sounds, the dancers bring alive the melody, each dancer taking a different phrase of the music to match their moves to. Switching BWW Review: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater - 60 Years, Still Ascending at The Dorothy Chandler Pavilionright into a honky-tonk piano/jitterbug then right away smooth jazz renderings with smooth moves, accenting their movements on the upbeat, they dance like there's no tomorrow as a piano riffs an uptempo refrain. The dancers take turns soloing, fluidly and precisely giving us gorgeous lines, feeling the rhythm through their bodies, moving across the floor until we hear the sounds of a balafon, the lights shedding a golden glow on the backdrop and an African drumbeat beginning. A female vocalist sings and chants, as they sway, moving across the floor, rolling their hips, with snake-like arm movements, bouncing in plié as their upper bodies undulate to the native rhythms.

BWW Review: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater - 60 Years, Still Ascending at The Dorothy Chandler PavilionAs they all back up the spotlight dims, a sheer scrim comes down and they are now all in silhouette, still moving, grooving to the sensual rhythms, as the music ends. BWW Review: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater - 60 Years, Still Ascending at The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion

The shades of purple and lavender Costuming that accented the dancers movements beautifully were designed by Keiko Voltaire with effective and enhancing Lighting Design by Tsubasa Kamei.

After intermission, "Shelter" was the next offering. A moving and impactful take on homelessness, it brings you right in to the helplessness, the physical and emotional impact of being without shelter or care for any length of time. The dancers are in a heap, laying on the floor in semi-darkness, congas beginning to play and voices begin to speak, then sing throughout the piece, reciting BWW Review: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater - 60 Years, Still Ascending at The Dorothy Chandler Pavilionvarious texts and songs about homelessness and its' effects. As they begin to move and interact with each other, their body movements tell the story each text or song is imparting. They stumble and collapse from the consequences of their plight, helping one another, persevering, but as the congas begin an intense African rhythm, they come alive as they contract and release in deep plié across the floor, with wildly frenetic movements, accenting the conga rhythms with wild abandon. There is an ironic BWW Review: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater - 60 Years, Still Ascending at The Dorothy Chandler Pavilionfreedom to their movements as they dazzle us with the choreography, splendidly conceived by Jawole Willa Jo Zollar. The creative lighting was designed by Susan Hamburger, and was performed by Ghrai DeVore, Samantha Figgins. Alia Nono Parker, Constance Stamatiou, Belen Pereyra -Alem and Jacqueline Harris. BWW Review: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater - 60 Years, Still Ascending at The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion

The crown jewel, and rightfully so, to top off the evening was the amazing "Revelations." It is by far one of the most revered dance creations in dance history. Artistic director Robert Battle is wise to always include this in the program, as it is truly the roots on which the Company was founded, growing from Mr. Aileys' experiences as a young African-American growing up in the rural South. Created and debuted by Ailey in 1960, "Revelations" was choreographed on the brink of the civil rights movement in America and is a history lesson through dance unique to the African-American cultural experience. It has now become a timeless reminder of how far we've come, and how far we still have to go.

Visually, it is like having a spiritual experience, as it's gorgeous musical sections, BWW Review: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater - 60 Years, Still Ascending at The Dorothy Chandler Pavilionhymns and vocals are brought to life by technically difficult and beautifully defined choreography that fills your soul with joy, empathetic understanding and reverence. The musicality and expressiveness of the finely-tuned dancers is what gives the brilliance to this magnificent work.

The aesthetic pictures formed by the dancers in the opening section with their rounded arms outstretched like wings, lunging and swaying in deep plié to the acapella hymn being sung are so moving, again, because of the radiating strong energy the dancers exude. In "Didn't my Lord Deliver Daniel," the trio of Megan Jamel, Solomon Dumas and Sarah Daley-Perdomo performed floorwork, moving slowly from the floor in a deep contraction to rise up and release giving us beautiful long lines, as they pitched and created asymmetrical images with their bodies. The gospel song "Fix me, Jesus," was danced by Constance Stamatiou and Michael Jackson, Jr. - legato movements as he partnered her, lifting and turning her as she holds a battement then arches back slowly, controlled and elegant; pure beauty in motion. BWW Review: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater - 60 Years, Still Ascending at The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion Then comes the powerful, glorious Procession across the floor, congas playing, as the iconic lady in white carries her white umbrella majestically onward, featuring Danica Paulos, Chalvar Montiero, Riccardo Battaglia and Christopher R. Wilson. The long white billowy scarf stretches across the front of the stage, and then another as "Wade in the Water" begins. BWW Review: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater - 60 Years, Still Ascending at The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion

The solo originally made legendary by Judith Jamison is absolutely stunning to behold. It's as soulful as this ideal style of dance already is. It is dancing with the mind, body and spirit combined and was accomplished completely, especially with Belen Pereyra-Alem in the role. Her dancing epitomizes grace, interpretation and technical prowess. Bernard J. Gilmore and and Khalia Campbell displayed a most intricate interlude of dazzling technical moments as the added turquoise elongated scarf softly waving behind them gave us that ever-flowing feeling of waters' eternalness. Each deep contraction the dancers took and then released felt like it reverberated through the audience and brought us closer and more in tune with the inner feelings of many people who have been repressed yet live their life in gratitude, peace and forgiveness. "I Wanna Be Ready" is an equally mesmerizing solo by Clifton Brown, who is strong and powerful - you can feel the inner tension in his body that generates such emotion and exactness of technique as he gives his soul to the Lord. BWW Review: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater - 60 Years, Still Ascending at The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion

"Sinner Man" is performed by another trio; Christopher R. Wilson, Yannick Lebrun and Michael Francis McBride that was yet another technically impressive group of solo turns, all captivating and full of passion.

The entire Company performs the last three sections dynamically increasing the fervor and BWW Review: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater - 60 Years, Still Ascending at The Dorothy Chandler Pavilionenthusiasm through the descriptive movements and set and lighting changes that enhance the electrifying and deeply-felt choreography. The finale of the piece, "Rocka my Soul in the Bosom of Abraham" was a culmination of the mixture of it all, and the feeling of content anticipation of what could very well be a huge awakening in the near future that will bring us all together.

Inspirational, to say the least.

Artistry: En Pointe! BWW Review: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater - 60 Years, Still Ascending at The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion

I have to say, through the years of seeing "Revelations" performed, each time, it effects me more, and on a deeper level. First seeing Judith Jamison in "Revelations," I was hooked because of the impact I felt from the piece. It was more than a dance piece, it was an imaginative physical interpretation of a real era in America's history. As it has evolved yet maintained its originality, it is just as relevant today and worthy of consideration for a solution in the future.

The artistry in all departments who lent their talent included Lighting Designer Nicola Cernovitch, Decor and Costuming by Ves Harper assisted by Barbara Forbes to make this come together so seamlessly and meaningfully. BWW Review: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater - 60 Years, Still Ascending at The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion

Alvin Ailey: an extraordinary American Dance Theater that is vibrant and moving forward by widening possibilities to expand, yet documenting their choreographic creations to preserve what came before. It is of all importance. When something you see moves you, it is a feeling you would like to pass on to others, truly, forevermore.

Because of several last minute switches in the cast due to injuries, if there is a mix-up in the listing of names, and who danced what roles, I apologize. The program was hard to follow, and listed different cast members in the same numbers for each performance in the run.

Photos Courtesy of Paul Kolnik



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